OVAL: Afghanistan couldn’t have dreamed of a more satisfying quarter-final. They laid down a marker and sent a message to more fancied opponents that they were not a side to be taken lightly. In doing so, they dismantled the home side, New Zealand, in perhaps the most comprehensive manner imaginable. It was a 202-run win, but even that massive margin perhaps doesn’t indicate just how good Afghanistan were on this day in Hagley Oval.
After opting to bat, four Afghanistan batsmen scored half-centuries – Rahmanullah Gurbaz (69), Ibrahim Zadran (68), Bahir Shah (67 not out) and the incredible Azmatullah Omarzai (66 off just 23). Thereafter, having posted a mammoth 309/6, Mujeeb Zadran (4/14), the mystery spinner, and Qais Ahmed (4/33), the leggie, ran through the line-up.
Australia, who Afghanistan will meet in the Super League semi-final, would have taken note. In fact, the whole cricket-watching world would have taken note. It was that sort of performance, from a bunch of boys sporting black armbands in memory of those that were lost in the recent attacks in Kabul and Jalalabad.
The New Zealand bowlers had a torrid time in the first innings, especially in the last five overs when Azmatullah’s belligerence ensured 77 runs were added. But perhaps it could all have been different had New Zealand held on to their chances. Ibrahim was dropped twice – first by Felix Murray when he was 15, and then on 23 by Sandeep Patel. He had a nervy, slow start, and had New Zealand to thank for their generosity. At the other end, Gurbaz was on a whole other level. He displayed excellent timing, and his inherent power ensured most of his swings found the fence.
New Zealand never looked likely to meet the target, given the way they started. It was a collapse of mammoth proportions as they were flummoxed by the skill and guile of Mujeeb. They were 20/4 within seven overs.